Luc Besson was born in Paris to parents who were both scuba diving instructors. After a diving accident during his youth, Besson turned to the film industry - he worked variously as a trainee assistant director, in casting, and as a second and first assistant director on various films and commercials.
His first film as director, L'Avant Dernier, screened at the short festival of Avoriaz. From this grew the feature length Le Dernier Combat (The Last Combat, 1983), which was 'the' event of the Avoriaz Festival that year, and won the Grand Prix of the jury and the Prix de la Critique.
Subway (1985), his second feature, starring Isabelle Adjani and Christopher Lambert won Lambert best actor award at the French C?sars. Shortly thereafter. the 9-month filming of Le Grand Bleu (The Big Blue ) began; it opened the Official Competition of the Cannes Festival in 1988 and became 'the' movie of a whole generation.
Besson's next worldwide box office hit was Nikita (1990). Together, Subway, The Big Blue and Nikita became known as Besson's contribution to the 1980s Cinema du Look, a loose movement of French filmmakers, including Jean-Jacques Beineix and Leos Carax, whose films each had a sharp aesthetic and centred on young, alienated characters
In 1991 Besson made Atlantis, conceived as an underwater opera with no dialogue or actors but a cast of dolphins, whales and sharks. His next film, L?on (The Professional, 1994), was shot in New York, starring his friend Jean Reno and a young Natalie Portman in her first lead role.
In 1997 Luc Besson returned to the Cannes Festival Official Competition with two films: one as director?Le Cinqui?me El?ment (The Fifth Element ) - and one as producer - the Gary Oldman directed Nil by Mouth . Although Quentin Tarantino won the coveted Palme d?Or for Pulp Fiction , Besson was awarded the Best Director C?sar later that year.
After directing an update of the historical tale, Joan of Arc (1999), Besson founded the studio EuropaCorp with Pierre-Ange Le Pogam, and has become a prolific film producer. Known as the "Jerry Bruckheimer of French cinema", Besson now rarely directs, but found significant success with the animation/live action children's feature Arthur and the Invisibles (2006), the first of a series of big-screen adaptations of his own children's books.